Catholic parishes suffer damage from vandalism after pro-life-backed ballot issue failed in Ohio – LifeSite

(LifeSiteNews) — A Catholic church and a separate parish center were vandalized in the past week in Ohio, adding to an already challenging week for pro-life Ohio Catholics after their loss to the abortion lobby on Issue 1, which would have guarded the Buckeye State against an impending proposal to enshrine abortion in the Ohio constitution.

It’s unclear what motivated the attacks, but vandals in one of the attacks left messages expressing anti-religion, pro-abortion and pro-LGBT sentiments.

On Monday, CatholicVote reported that two Catholic buildings in the Cleveland area: Immaculate Conception Church in Willoughby, Ohio, and a parish center building at St. Francis de Sales Parish in Parma, were vandalized in the immediate aftermath of the vote on Issue 1, which would have changed the process to amend the Ohio Constitution by raising the threshold from a simple 50% plus one majority vote to a 60% requirement but failed. 

Pro-lifers had backed the measure as a means to prevent a constitutional amendment protecting the “right’ to abortion.

READ: Ohio voters side with abortion lobby, defeat proposal backed by pro-lifers

“First, losing Issue 1 last week, now this … it really hurts,” an Immaculate Conception parishioner who requested to remain anonymous told CatholicVote.

The parishioner said that, when she arrived at church for Mass last weekend, “[t]wo of our own stained-glass windows smashed, a trail of blood throughout the church — left by the injured vandal, blood stains in the confessionals, and overturned candle stands, surrounded by melted wax.”

“Our priest somberly relayed what he could: the vandal had been caught and charges would be filed,” she said. “Parishioners are disturbed and distressed over this.” 

Fr. Michael Troha, the pastor at Immaculate Conception, told local outlet Cleveland 19 his “initial reaction was one of shock.”

“It was a desecration of the church,” he said. “This is our holy place. This is where we come to meet God.”

Police responding to a motion alarm at about 2 a.m. Saturday contacted 30-year-old Eric Randall Beck, who they said was inside the church holding a shovel handle and bleeding from his hand. Officers arrested Beck, who they said was heavily intoxicated, as he attempted to flee. 

While he had been inside the church, “Beck allegedly tried to light the carpet on fire with a bottle of hand sanitizer and knocked over a statue of the Virgin Mary,” Cleveland 19 reported.

The suspect was held on a $50,000 bond but has since been released after posting bail. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of arson, breaking and entering, and vandalism.

Beck was not a member of the parish and no motive has yet been shared for the rampage.

Vandals also broke into a St. Francis de Sales parish center in Parma, CatholicVote reported, but the perpetrators have not been identified or caught. 

Individuals reportedly broke into the building where they took down a crucifix and placed it upside down, destroyed posters, and put pictures of Cleveland Bishop Edward Malesic and Pope Francis on the floor.

They also scrawled messages on the whiteboard expressing antipathy toward religion and morality.

According to the report, the vandals wrote: “There is no God,” “Don’t read the Bible because God is dead,” “Who is the Church to tell women they can’t have an abortion,” and “It’s my right to choose what gender I want to be.” 

“It’s my suspicion that it was young people making a statement instead of handling it in an adult way,” Fr. Mark Peyton, St. Francis’ pastor, said, an assessment with which, he said, the police have concurred.

“You would hope that they would be more mature instead of doing that, like calling a priest or teacher to talk about their problems with Church teachings,” he said.

According to CatholicVote, Fr. Peyton said he thinks the vandalism had to do with Issue 1.

As LifeSiteNews has reported, Issue 1 would have hardened the constitutional amendment process in Ohio by requiring a 60% supermajority to approve an amendment rather than a simple 50% plus one majority. 

Ohio voters rejected Issue 1 by a wide margin in an August 8 special election. 

READ: Radical abortion amendment officially to appear on Ohio ballot in November

In November, voters will decide whether or not to approve a constitutional amendment to enshrine abortion into the constitution.

According to the language of the proposal, which would amend Article I of the constitution, “[e]very individual has a right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions, including but not limited to decisions on contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one’s own pregnancy, miscarriage care and abortion.”

The state would thereby be prohibited from setting up any barriers against “an individual’s voluntary exercise of this right.”

Catholic leaders have urged the Ohio faithful to vote no on the amendment in November to protect the preborn.

Meanwhile, Catholic buildings in Ohio aren’t the only ones to become targets of vandalism in recent years. According to CatholicVote’s “violence tracker,” last updated August 8, there have been 348 attacks on Catholic churches since May 2020 and 64 so far in 2023.